The Severn Bridge Road Race started in beautiful sunshine after some dreadful rain on the way to the start. I was the only Phoenix rider, and the usual suspects of pro-teams turned up (ONE cycling, NFTO, PedalHaven etc). The course was challenging with 10 laps including a 1km/7% climb with a vicious kick towards the end and in windy conditions. The first lap was neutralised to familiarise everyone with the plentiful roadworks.
Action started on lap 2, with attacks from the gun. When a ONE cycling and an NFTO rider went clear I decided it would be time to jump and got a cross with a number of other riders. We established a break of just over 10 riders (I think we lost a couple of them to normal attrition) with 3-4 ONE riders, 3 NFTO’s and 2 PedalHaven guys (rough numbers – it was a blurry vision for 3 hours for me).
The break was terrible. Attacks straight away, and not having any team mates I was a playing ball either chasing down riders or being left. So I did my fair share of turns and efforts until 3 laps from the finish two 2-rider pairs went clear. I was comfortable in the remaining 6-men chase until 10k from the finish a Di2 fail meant I was stuck in the small chain ring. Trying to put it back whilst riding I actually dropped the chain and quickly pulled over, put it on and asked the BC car how far back the bunch was. “Miles away”, was the answer, so I just cruised with bonkers cadence to the finish and came in in 10th place.
With 3 of us getting a rather last minute entry into this event, there wasn’t much time to really think about it. With this, Michelle and John set to work the day before the event and bagged van hire, with John being very kind in offering to drive and be our DS/Sogniour for the weekend.
The Journey started 6.30 from south London, picking up Bella and then Mhairi before heading to the Hog, where the first two stages were being held. There were approx 66 starters. Our aim/motto for the weekend: Have fun, stay safe, and look out for each other in the bunch…..
STAGE 1 – TT (2 laps of the hog in the ‘wrong’ direction)
With none of us being TTer’s, we just decided to give it what we could without blowing up straight away. Job done. Very respectable times; Mhairi 6.23, Bella 6.29 and Michelle 6.31. Please with our times and done by 11.15, we set to work….resting hard for just under 4 hours before our 3pm start of stage 2. 50km crit of the hog.
STAGE 2 – Hog Hill Crit
We were gridded in time order, from TT at the bottom of the circuit. It was always going to be hard for anything to split, with us thinking back to the team series, where it pretty much kept all together for the duration. This race was not that different, apart from Sarah Storey attacking and going solo for most of the race, no other attacks really stuck. We all had some time on the front, some might say I had too much time! Having digs and attacking myself a few times. Despite getting a gap, it was apparent that I was just not strong enough on my own and I was quickly reeled back in. It was fun to have a go though. Got to try these things.
There were a few accidents on the hill, predictably. Mhairi locking handlebars with another rider, me going off road (no change there) and Michelle doing well to avoid an accident in front of her on the hill.
Bunch sprint finish saw us get swamped and another accident on the hill. However, we all finished unscathed
STAGE 3 – 75 mile Road Race – Safron Walden
Think rain, real heavy rain, and flooded, gritty roads. The sort of weather where you can’t really see in front of you.
58 starters today. We rolled out into the 10k neutralised section. That was, surprisingly neutralised. We then had to wait in the pouring rain for about half an hour whilst the mens raced past. Late starts and an accident in the race had caused the delay. However, once we were off, we were off.
I was concentrating so hard to stay upright, stay safe, but not bottle it and ride hard. I was actually kind of enjoying the wet, grit and dirt. Thinking about a ride I’d done where it was mostly off road, on gravel and tracks. I zoned into this. There was a accident, punctures and some dropping out due to the distance and conditions.
We’d all found each other at points, checking we were ok and encouraging one another. I really liked this…. ‘Just look out for the red jersey’.
The next lap went by, and not seeing Michelle, I was told by another rider that she had punctured. The sun made an appearance after a couple of laps or so. Myself and Mhairi drifted around the bunch, being able to chat to one another. Both wondering about the inevitable bunch sprint. Mhairi saying that if we weren’t the right side of the bunch at the junction before the turn into finish, we’d get swamped again.
Myself and Mhairi saw the front of our lead group a few times. I allowed myself to drift back, right back. Something I am usually hesitant to do for fear of being dropped if something kicks off. However, as I drifted back, I found out a few things 1) the lead group was now only about 30 strong 2) there was a lot of freewheeling the further back you go and 3) right at the very back, were some strong riders, who I thought would definitely be contesting the sprint…..Two went off and weren’t caught.
Coming into the last bit, I found myself ‘the wrong side’ of the bunch before the junction, at least 20 or so riders back. As we turned and entered the final drag to the finish I could see Mhairi up ahead and a gap….A GAP! For the first time, I didn’t hesitate and just went for it, went for the gap. I over took quite a few riders and then my gap starting closing as someone swerved, making those in front do the same. I had to apply a little pressure to my brakes and swerve myself, but managed to finish just behind Mhairi. 11th and 12th!!
Rode back to HQ and learnt Michelle had finished too, in one piece, very happy and with the biggest smile… Michelle saying, “I met all my targets in the first 30 minutes, the rest was just a bonus”
John and Michelle kindly took care of us. Our brains had been left at the finish somewhere and stringing a comprehensive sentence together was near impossible.
The journey home was fun, Talking about the weekend and our adventure. Living like a pro, being looked after by John. It was all amazing. Massive thanks to John. Having a van and someone to drive and assist with everything; from our bikes to attending ‘managers’ race briefings, just took out a huge level of stress and we could concentrate on racing.
I think john would like a team car next time….
Miles Butler and Will Beresford riding up the Tourmalet during the Etape du Tour on Sunday. Both finished in 5hr 46 on a really tough day in the mountains, placing them 239th and 241st respectively from over 9000 starters.
Gunther won the 2014 Ras de Cymru on Sunday 13th July by finishing 2nd on the final stage. The 5-day stage race for 100 cat 2,3 and 4 riders comprises mainly of four man (or women) teams.
Phoenix were represented by Gunther along with Dave Bird, Jason Creswell and Miles Butler. The race began on Wednesday 9th July with a team time trial. Phoenix put in a solid ride to finish just in the top half of a closely contested stage with very small time gaps. The team thought Gunther had a good chance of a high general classification finish, but were all surprised when an opportunistic move during the final of Thursday’s 2nd stage put him in the yellow race leader’s jersey.
Friday saw a morning hilly road stage followed by an individual TT with a hill climb finish. Gunther finished safely in the bunch in the morning before placing an impressive 2nd in the afternoon TT. In the process he recorded the fastest time of the day on the climb and would be in yellow for another day.
On Saturday a successful break away win meant there would be no Phoenix rider in yellow for Sunday’s final stage. But the team were quietly confident as the stage would culminate with a 6km ascent of the Brecon Beacons and Gunther was climbing as well as anyone, and better than his closest GC riders.
On Sunday a benign two man break went away comprising of two London Dynamo riders. The rest of the contenders seemed happy to let it drift off and there were no fireworks until the foot of Llangynidr mountain by which stage the break had been caught. Gunther along with Stephen Williams, a light weight climber from Wales Youth Team, set about shredding the peloton and by half way up the climb the two were clear. Now it was just about riding as hard as possible putting time into the other GC contenders. Williams was gifted the win at the summit, but Gunther had done more than enough to win the overall classification.
The Ras de Cymru is the most prestigious regional category event in the calender and just about the most significant win possible in a cat 2 field. The points from the race mean Gunther won’t have the chance to defend next year, as he is now cat 1.
Bella, Tamala and Michelle F all took part in event with just under 50 starters of all ages and cats. There were fears that the race would stay together for the duration.
Bella’s aim was stay near the front, to 1) stay safe and 2) be near good wheels so if a break went, she had chance of being in it. The first few laps saw people having a dig here and there, with Bella having a dig on the hill and being off the front a couple of times. Tamala was doing a fab job of mixing it up with the lead group and on one of the corners Bella offered her wheel and they moved further up together.
On the penultimate lap there were still around 18-20 in the lead group. As they approached the hill the penultimate time, Bella and a few others put in the effort to get over, carry momentum through and started to drill it. Bella looked behind, saw a few other riders had made it on and they had a gap. There were now 9, including Dame Sarah Storey. They started through and off to try and maintain the gap and maintained it. Initially 18 seconds then up to 1 minute 14. Approaching the finish, before the hill, the pace slowed significantly as everyone was getting ready to sprint. Bella got 6th overall and 2nd in her age cat behind Sarah Storey. Excellent result!
Tamala worked well in the main bunch doing a lot of the pacing and came a very well placed 17th overall, 4th in age group. Michelle stuck with the fast paced main bunch for almost 30km finishing in a chase group, 9th in her age category.
Excellent work girls!
Everyone who entered was overwhelmed by the effort that went into the organisation and running of this race. The number of people, the amount of effort, the care and attention to every detail. All from volunteers.
Gunther Zechmann, Miles Butler, Jason Creswell and Dave Bird representing Phoenix at the Ras. Gunter is in yellow after stage 4. The final stage happens today. Good look guys!
Michelle S and Mhairi headed out to Guildford last night for the town centre crit. This was a LWCR league race which also took in cobbled section. Mhairi decided that she would try get to the front from the off as it is a tight fast circuit that gets strung out quickly. She got an ok start but already after the first corner was far back and the front riders were on the next corner about 50m away. So she threw herself round the corners and on the first time up the cobbles through the finish line she put the hammer down to move up. She kept going and on the second time round she just went right up the line to the front. It turned out this was a good plan as already within a few laps the field was decimated and soon realised there were only 6 left. Then there were 4, then there were 3. It was super fast, 55s per lap! She used attack as the best form of defence and attacked downhill into the tight corner to make a gap so the other two couldn’t attack on the uphill cobbles. This worked well and she hung on. One rider started attacking about 10 mins from the end and Mhairi just closed them down gradually. The same rider attacked on the bell and Mhairi couldn’t make it back, but came in 3rd. Michelle was on the wrong side of the splits early on but then stormed through the field picking riders off all the way managed to get her way back into the group. This ended in a bunch sprint with Michelle bagging 11th or 12th.
On Saturday 29th March the London Phoenix ladies kicked off their London Women’s League campaign with round 1 at Hog Hill. It was the first real points race for some of the group and a good chance to test out some of the race skills picked up at the training session held a few weeks ago. For others it was a chance to build on previous race lessons and also aim for a good result for the team. With Bella, Mhairi, Aoife, Nancy, Petra and Tamala all racing, London Phoenix were well represented and even had a cheering squad there for back up. Thanks to all who came to support!
There was a smaller field than expected, with only 30ish riders, however there was no lack of strength and many of the region’s stronger riders were there, including team from Les Filles. The game plan was to stick with the bunch as long as possible, avoid doing too much work on the front and for Mhairi and Bella to attack on the hill if the opportunities arose.
The pace on the Hoggenberg was pretty feisty from the off and that whittled the group down a fair bit quite quickly. Bella and Mhairi stayed with the front group until a further couple of kicks split things apart again, finishing in 7th and 9th respectively. Aoife found herself on her own behind the main group after a few too many fast paced ascents, later joining Petra and a smaller group, where there were a few attempts to drop the two Phoenix riders, which failed. The final lap saw the group split on the hill with Aoife finishing 12th and Petra 15th. It was Tamala and Nancy’s first points race and both ended up doing mega solo efforts on a windy Hog hill. Tamala battled on to finish a tough but well fought first race, finishing in 17th.
All in all Phoenix showed some solid team strength with a great set of results for the series opener. Bring on round 2!
Also racing at Hog Hill that day were a number of the Phoenix guys who showed great form in both the men’s 3/4, the E/1/2 and on cheer leading duties. Thanks guys.
Entries now being taken for the LP time trial at Brickendon on Saturday 3rd May, start time 14:00.
Details of the course can be found here. Entries can be made online here. Any problems please contact us.
This Saturday saw the London Phoenix women in action at Hog Hill for Round 1 of the Women’s Team Series. With a field of 100 riders this was actually the biggest women’s cycle race in the UK ever! It was great to be part of that.
There were a few pre-race nerves about the size of the field as non of us have raced in something that big before. For Aoife it was her first ever race, what an introduction! The plan for us was to stick as close to the front as we could and hold on to the bunch for as long as we could.
Due to the size of the field the race was neutralised behind a moped for half a lap before things kicked off at the bottom of the circuit. An early break went out and the bunch let them go, keeping a fairly steady pace going including kicking it up over the Hoggenberg itself. Over the race there were a few riders that bridged to the breakaway but the bunch was kept in control by the bigger teams who had riders in the break. Bella and Mhairi managed to keep themselves up in the top part of the bunch, working to hold that position and not get pushed back. Rachael and Aoife held on to the bunch for a while but then found themselves working in the second group on the circuit, still staying in good contention. Overall a great start to the season and good practice for the LWCR season opener next weekend.
We are a group of London-based cyclists, who get together for races and training rides. We have a website forum as our virtual clubhouse, and instead of regular weekly club rides from a set place we arrange to meet up for mountain bike, road or cyclocross rides, races and time trials from a variety of venues. We also meet up socially every month.